Live in California

Radio Moscow

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Live in California Review

by Mark Deming

On their first three albums, Radio Moscow weren't so much a band as Parker Griggs' personal project, with the guitarist and singer usually overdubbing himself into a full group in the studio rather than dealing with other musicians. That all changed with 2014's Magical Dirt, which found Griggs working for the first time with a rhythm section that lived up to his standards. With bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone, Radio Moscow was now a real and functional power trio, just like obvious inspirations Cream, Blue Cheer, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Griggs seemed delighted to be able to concentrate fully on his guitar freakouts for a change. 2016's Live in California, recorded during a pair of Los Angeles gig in December 2015, documents just how deep Griggs has gotten into his guitar heroics since then, which is not always a good thing. Griggs has impressive chops, and he's assembled a solid musical vocabulary from the blues wailers and pre-metal heavy dudes he clearly worships. However, he's picked up one other thing from his heroes -- his solos go on forever, and his jams may have energy, with Meier and Marrone kicking him into overdrive from beginning to end, but they wander in circles, abandoning any pretense of songcraft as he pumps out wave after wave of thick, distorted riffage (not an uncommon occurrence in vintage power trios, come to think of it). Live in California is a matter of taste if there ever was such a thing -- Radio Moscow honestly sounds better and more fluid as a genuine band than they did as a one-man studio project, and this album will be manna from heaven for a certain breed of stoner rock enthusiasts. (The liner notes do include the helpful note, "Play this album as loud as possible and as high as possible.") But if you're not in love with Parker Griggs' parade of resin-infused guitar theatrics, Live in California plays like the longest 75 minutes of your life.

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